2.9Punitive measures for contempt of court were typically the imposition of a fine or a term of imprisonment. At common law, there was no limit upon the sentence of imprisonment. It could be for any finite period determined by the judge or for an indeterminate period, ending only when the person held to be in contempt complied with the relevant order of the court.
2.11Traditionally, forms of contempt were regarded as either criminal or civil, depending on their purpose. Conduct requiring punishment for undermining the administration of justice was regarded as criminal contempt, while civil contempt was reserved for situations involving the need to coerce compliance with a court order or judgment in a civil action. As discussed in Chapter 7, that distinction has less relevance today.
 Under the summary procedure, there is no preliminary inquiry, committal procedure or requirement for an indictment. Historically the judge could take the initiative in the proceeding, determine the grounds of complaint, identify witnesses and inquire into what they had to say. The judge would then determine guilt or innocence and the sentence to be imposed. More recently, when out of court conduct is involved, contempt proceedings have been brought by a law officer, usually the Solicitor-General.
 Over the years, the summary process has come to include the safeguards normally available to accused persons to protect their rights with the exception of the right to trial by jury.
2.14Unlike other conduct that results in criminal penalties, criminal contempt cases are given a civil file number in the court system, as they are commenced by way of an originating or interlocutory application, and convictions are not recorded on the offender’s criminal record. Proceedings are generally brought by a Crown counsel in the name of the Solicitor-General, rather than by the police prosecution service, but the court can act of its own motion also.